What’s cool at school?

Featuring some of the amazing happenings in work exploration at elementary, middle and high schools, as well as technical colleges

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Cool Code

Real computer science

Technology workers bring code to classrooms of Milwaukee

The future of work depends on computers. With more than half a million open computer science positions nationally, jobs in this field are expected to grow at twice the rate of all other jobs.

Now in Milwaukee, students are learning to code with the help of people in the workforce who actually do these kinds of jobs.

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Microsoft’s Technology Education and Literacy in Schools (TEALS) program partners classroom teachers and technology industry volunteers. TEALS volunteers in Milwaukee come from local companies, including Milwaukee-based Northwestern Mutual.

TEALS volunteers co-teach at Cristo Rey, Hmong American Peace Academy, Messmer, St. Augustine, St. Thomas More, Tenor and Veritas schools.

The TEALS program began in 2009 with one school and 12 students, and has grown to nearly 350 schools in 29 states, working with 12,000 students.

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“Learning computer science and computational thinking is critical for our students’ future success in today and tomorrow’s increasingly technology-driven world,” said Microsoft TEALS founder Kevin Wang.

Design + Technology = Awesome!

SHARP Literacy shows elementary schoolers the power of design and coding

Through SHARP Literacy’s Design Through Code (DTC) program, fourth- and fifth-grade students can learn the language of the future: computer programming.

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SHARP Literacy collaborated with experts in technology, engineering, design, art and education to create DTC. The program includes a Design Challenge to solve a problem students see at school. For example, at Escuela Vieau they invented a hidden bully camera.

“Bullying is turning into a really big problem and we want it to stop. So we started to think about what we could invent to make it stop and for there to be consequences for their actions,” said Angel, a student at Escuela Vieau.

Working together, students use their knowledge of coding, art and the design process to create a prototype solution to the problem they’ve identified. In groups, they present their projects to a panel of industry pros, helping the students imagine themselves in STEAM careers.

Five schools in Milwaukee participated and three schools in Waukesha participated. The program hopes to expand in years to come thanks to a partnership with the Milwaukee Bucks and Fiserv.

CyberPatriots unite!

Two all-girl teams from Kenosha School of Technology Enhanced Curriculum learn cyber defense skills

At Kenosha School of Technology Enhanced Curriculum, students learn from experts in the field doing technology work every day. This year, seventh- and eighth-grade KTEC female students competed in a national CyberPatriots cybersecurity challenge.

The competition, coordinated by the U.S. Air Force, provides students with the training and experience of a cybersecurity professional. Teams work with real business programs like Cisco networking, Microsoft and Linux operating systems. Teams must find and reduce cybersecurity issues while maintaining needed services.

Azuri Lawson, whose team placed second at the state level, said, “I would describe it as a fun club with a bunch of girls in it who learned how to stop hackers and how to secure networks. If my network’s not working, instead of having to call someone, I can do it myself.”

Michael Polzin, CEO of Leeward Business Advisors, provided training for the KTEC teams. He did the training and teaching.

“Forbes indicated as many as 3.5 million jobs in cybersecurity could be unfilled by 2021, and with females making up only 14 percent of the U.S. cybersecurity workforce, something needs to change and fast,” Michael said.

“One of the biggest barriers to getting more females into cybersecurity is not access and training, it is the girls’ perceptions and willingness to explore the industry. So we create an environment where they can see themselves as the experts, increase their confidence, and envision a future as a very successful IT security engineer,” he said.

Computer Science Awareness Week in Milwaukee

Coding 4,700 hours at 71 events with 20 companies

Code.org believes every student in every school has the opportunity to learn computer programming. To make it happen in Milwaukee, 20 companies hosted 71 events and taught more than 4,700 hours of code to K-12 students during Computer Science Awareness Week. More than 190 volunteers led area events, which coincided with Code.org’s global Hour of Code campaign, locally promoted by Northwestern Mutual and NEWaukee.

Hands-on coding activities focused on data collection and visualization, computer science terminology, puzzles and games. Students from Stellar Collegiate Charter School of Milwaukee worked together to solve challenges in Minecraft. Northwestern Mutual employees led an Hour of Code with over 150 K4-5th graders at Forest Home Avenue School. Notre Dame School of Milwaukee teams coded and programmed Finch Robots to go through mazes. Milwaukee Public Library Mitchell Street Branch had computers and experienced coders on hand to teach activities to students of all ages.

Wisconsin currently has nearly 7,000 open computing jobs, and more than 30,000 technology job openings in the Milwaukee seven-county region are expected in the next five years due to retirement and changing careers alone, according to Code.org.

“When companies and communities work side-by-side to support a larger purpose, good things happen,” said Karl Gouverneur, vice president of digital workplace, corporate solutions and head of digital innovation at Northwestern Mutual.

Career growth with Thinkful is a team sport

Individual mentorship and a career services manager offer six months of support

Steve Velasco
Steve Velasco

With a strong influence from his designer parents, Steve Velasco wanted to be a part of creating something visually appealing that functions well. His passion for coding sparked when he took a Visual Basic programming class in high school. He enjoyed it so much that he began to create video games for fun.

When Steve graduated high school, he took a few classes at a local college before entering the workforce and eventually enrolling in Thinkful’s full-stack flex program. In this program, he’s learning the skills he needs to become a full-stack developer while keeping his full-time job.

“I have learned that development is more than just creating lines of code. Thinkful showed me that there are more characteristics to a successful developer,” Steve said. “For example, being able to look at the big picture to know how everything works in our ever-changing tech world is a need.”

While Thinkful’s courses are completely online, through one-on-one mentorship and meet-ups in the Milwaukee area, Steve is able to be a part of a bigger community while making his own schedule.

“Being able to collaborate with my mentor is a great experience,” Steve said. “I am able to ask questions and code with someone who knows the field, which helps me understand better. I know I will be taking this team coding and collaborative habit to other teams down the road.”

He’s slated to graduate in the summer of 2019 and plans to get a job as a full-stack developer using the industry languages he’s learned.

Thinkful offers a job guarantee upon completing a program or students will be refunded tuition.

Cool Manufacturing

A day of discovery

Germantown High School freshmen get inside local businesses

For a new annual field trip, ninth grade students from Germantown High School went to area manufacturers to see what things are made and what kinds of jobs are available there.

Through this, the students began to understand how they might fit into the local world of work.

Some area manufacturers who participated included Metals USA, KLH Industries, MGS Manufacturing, Hampel Corp., J.W. Speaker and others.

“I have witnessed the significant need for technically-trained workers to assemble, install and service our dehumidifiers. It is always amazing to me to hear from the students that ‘this is not what I thought manufacturing was like.’ It helps to open their eyes to alternate career paths,” said Keith Coursin, president of Desert Aire Corp, a participating manufacturer.

“The event was a great success. We appreciated the manufacturers who participated. They really stepped up to give our students a good experience,” said Rick Grothaus, director of educational systems for the Germantown School District.

Jumpstart your career with GPSEd

GPS Education Partners give high school students access to work-based learning

Chase Nanez
Chase Nanez

The traditional education model isn’t for everyone. GPS Education Partners offers local students real work experiences in manufacturing. The program helps students gain career readiness and learn about employability, all while instilling a sense of purpose.

Chase Nanez graduated from Hartford Union High School and GPSEd in the spring of 2019. He worked at Menasha Corp. in labor and plans to join the U.S. Marine Corps.

“Imagine walking into a machine shop pretending to know all about the tools and parts, but knowing nothing. Then imagine walking out one or two years later knowing all of the tools/machines like the back of your hand,” Chase said.

Some things Chase will take away from the GPS program are how to pull wires, install insulation and install a toilet. He also learned blueprint reading, problem solving and organization, and how to be more reliable with money, including saving and starting a 401(k) retirement account.

“Jim taught me to think outside the box, and that blueprint reading is a life skill. Jim also taught me how to be more efficient and organized through slowing down and taking things one step at a time. Joel taught me organization by making sure every time I interviewed that I was dressed nice and prepared with all my documents,” Chase said.

Mark your calendar for Maker Faire Milwaukee

Students at all levels can make stuff with local Makers

Mark your calendar for Maker Faire Milwaukee
Mark your calendar for Maker Faire Milwaukee

The Betty Brinn Children’s Museum presents Maker Faire Milwaukee to introduce the community to the global Maker Movement. “Makers” are a driving force in the development of technologies shaping how we will live, work and learn in the future.

Maker Faire offers a family-friendly showcase of invention, creativity, and resourcefulness. People of all ages and backgrounds gather to show what they are making and share what they are learning.

Mark your calendar for Maker Faire Milwaukee
Mark your calendar for Maker Faire Milwaukee

Makers from groups, clubs, schools and higher education institutions, companies and organizations demonstrate what they make (hobbies, inventions and new products), the process of making it, and how it works.

The event includes hands-on skill building in everything from arts and crafts to scientific research and exploration.

Maker Faire Milwaukee is a free admission event and is locally produced by the Betty Brinn Children’s Museum and Milwaukee Makerspace with Make Media, Inc., creator of the international Maker Faire program, which began in 2006.

With more than 200 Maker Faires happening around the world, the global event engages more than 1.4 million annual attendees across 44 countries.

Cool Construction

Sign on the line

Brown Deer High School hosted an Industry Signing Day for future apprentices at area construction companies

Brown Deer High School hosted an Industry Signing Day for future apprentices at area construction companies
Brown Deer High School hosted an Industry Signing Day for future apprentices at area construction companies

In a twist on the high school letter of commitment signing by graduating athletes to play for a particular college, Brown Deer High School hosted an Industry Signing Day. This event was for Brown Deer seniors who will be paid apprentices at area construction companies.

The hiring companies were on hand to join the students in signing the letters. The letters outlined the job responsibilities along with compensation and benefits. The letters also included a student promise to meet basic entry requirements, like graduating high school and having a driver’s license.

These students participated in hands-on, technical training through the Brown Deer High School Industry Advisory program. In partnership with the Building2Learn Consortium and the North Central States Regional Council of Carpenters, the Industry Advisory program gives technical skills training to high school seniors.

The training took place early each morning before school in the high school’s Productivity Center, also known as the Brown Deer Skilled Trades & Manufacturing Academy. The Productivity Center houses all of the district’s construction, pre-engineering and Project Lead the Way (PLTW) courses, as well as its Fab Lab.

Employers who participated included: CG Schmidt, Mortenson, Common Links, STAFF Electric, Total Mechanical and BSI.

In addition to the letter-signing, students received their honorary high-viz graduation cords for completing the Construction Regional Career Pathway, a hand tool kit from Milwaukee Tool and hard hats and other protective equipment from their new employers.

Take a tour

MBA offers a closer look at the Parade of Homes buildings and jobs

MBA offers a closer look at the Parade of Homes buildings and jobs
MBA offers a closer look at the Parade of Homes buildings and jobs

How many people does it take to build a home? A lot, and more are needed, as students learned at The Metropolitan Builders Association’s (MBA) third annual Building Trades Career Day.

The MBA hosted more than 650 students from 27 local high schools at two Parade of Homes subdivisions. Students toured job sites, learned about the building industry and career options in the skilled trades. Tours were at White Oak Conservancy in Delafield and at Aero Park in Menomonee Falls.

“With the shortage of skilled labor in the building trades, the MBA’s continuing goal is to give students and educators a glimpse of the new home construction process, exposing them to the homes under construction, giving them direct contact with builders and subcontractors, and introducing them to career opportunities in the trades,” said Jim Doering, 2019 MBA president.

“Many parents and high school counselors encourage students to obtain a four-year degree or some type of higher education following graduation; however it is also important to remember that learning a skill and obtaining a career in the trades can provide a solid future as well,” he said.


STEM immersion

Cass Street School students spent time on the construction site for the new $50 million St. Rita Square development

Cass Street School students spent time on the construction site for the new $50 million St. Rita Square development
Cass Street School students spent time on the construction site for the new $50 million St. Rita Square development

Capri Senior Communities and Pepper Construction held a STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) immersion session with Cass Street School. It’s an MPS K-8 school located next to the St. Rita Square construction site.

Students started the day learning about careers via a card matching game. Then they learned how to use Milwaukee County’s GIS site to see the St. Rita site today, and in 1894. They mapped out the perimeter and area of the site, and then did the same for the actual St. Rita Square and St. Rita Church buildings. Students learned about drone technology and how it helps in the building of a new project.

After time in the classroom, students hit the construction site where they worked alongside tradespeople and measured for formwork, laser scanned concrete, and used virtual reality software to see the future mechanical and electrical installations, and finally, what a 3D laser scanner can do.

Hands-on group work solving real-world problems

Project Lead The Way (PLTW) at local school reaches every student

Project Lead The Way (PLTW) at local school reaches every student
Project Lead The Way (PLTW) at local school reaches every student

Project Lead The Way (PLTW) is a nonprofit organization that serves K-12 students and teachers in over 10,500 schools across the U.S. to promote STEM education.

“You have time to work alongside friends and learn through hands-on activities in class. You make drawings and create foot braces for kids with cerebral palsy, and we made toys for therapy and muscle development. In fifth grade we used and created machines to help solve problems, like animal rescue,” said Lee, a Washington-Caldwell middle school student.

“I like it because it is a way to make devices and explore ways to grow your brain. There is guidance but creativity,” said Colton, a Washington-Caldwell middle school student.

The Washington-Caldwell School District is a PLTW Distinguished District, earning recognition for 100% participation by its students.

“I think PLTW is such a strong wonderful curriculum for a multitude of reasons. The hands-on application of skills helps students learn about science and math in a way that sticks with them over the years. The course has made them use their newfound knowledge immediately in the challenges and labs, while engineering something new and creative,” said Kelly Unrath, middle school PLTW teacher.

Cool Colleges

Travel the world at WCTC

The Hessen/Wisconsin Exchange Partnership between Germany and Wisconsin began in 1976

Evan Koch and Silva Castro
Evan Koch and Silva Castro

Have you thought about seeing another country? At Waukesha County Technical College, you can!

In studying abroad, students develop the skills needed to be effective in a global and multicultural workplace and society.

Two students and a faculty member from the School of Business went to Frankfurt, Germany as part of an Education Abroad program. They stayed with host families, attended technical college classrooms and visited business, government, and other cultural sites.

WCTC has partnered with Hans-Böckler-Schule (HBS), a technical college in Frankfurt, which is in the State of Hessen. Every October, a group from HBS spends two weeks at WCTC in Pewaukee, Wisconsin, and then a group of WCTC students spends the last two weeks of May in Frankfurt, Germany.

Student participants in the 2019 exchange were Silvia Castro and Evan Koch. Castro is an international student from Colombia who graduated with an associate degree in global business in May 2019.

Koch, a resident of Oconomowoc, recently completed the first year of his associate degree in business management. Faculty member Heather Schmidt has participated as a chaperone, partner and champion for this program for 12 years for WCTC.

Castro mentioned the new experience of navigating public transportation in a foreign country and language.

“I’m always scared to get lost, but I’ve learned to trust that no matter what the barriers are, I can ask for help, and will find my way,” she said.

The Hessen Exchange is one of up to six opportunities offered annually for students at WCTC through the Global Education Center.

More cool stuff at tech schools

Tech schools provide lots of fun opportunities for you to meet fellow students, gain professional experience and get involved on campus and in the community.


  • Anime Club
  • Deaf Culture Club
  • Chess Club
  • Future Black Nurses Association Mentoring Group
  • Environmental Club


  • Electronics Club
  • Fab Lab Creative Design Circle
  • N9GTC Amateur Radio Club
  • OAK – Outdoor Adventure Klub
  • The Rainbow Alliance


  • Student Government Association
  • Disc Golf Course
  • Nuclear Tech Club
  • Hospitality Club
  • Weld Club


  • Auto Technician Club
  • Donut Club
  • Health & Wellness Club
  • Interactive Media/Graphics Club
  • IT (Information Technology) Club

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